The best bunk beds offer up a little something for everyone in the family: They save on space, while providing a fun but practical sleep surface for kids. While bunk beds used to mean simply two twin mattresses positioned vertically, today these beds offer a lot more options in terms of style, design, materials and extras—such as storage, slides, full stairs and even tree houses.
“Parents love bunk beds because they save space and remind them of their own childhood, and kids love bunk beds, because they’re fun,” says Daniel Ganjian, M.D., a pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “They can be safe, but there are certain guidelines I always tell parents,” he adds. (More on those details at the bottom of this article.) Four Posters Bed
The best bunk beds bring a playful aspect to your child's bedroom while also helping families save ... [+] on space by featuring two or even three beds in one.
The right bunk bed for your family involves choosing beds that have the right size (do you prefer twin mattresses or full?), weight capacity and style for your kids. And, of course, you’ll want something that fits into your budget. We’ve researched the bestsellers on the market, relied on our expertise in the bedding category and turned to experts, such as Dr. Ganjian, to find the best bunk beds to make your child’s bedroom decor dreams come true.
The Mack & Milo Absecon bunk bed is incredibly well thought out. For starters, it features two built-in, under-the-bed storage bins for clothes, books or toys, making it extra helpful in the space saving category. (Those dressers have molded handles, so you don’t need to worry about little toes or PJs getting caught on a pull while climbing into and out of bed.) A solid 14-inch guardrail keeps older and younger kids from rolling off, while allowing for plenty of breathability. The whole thing is crafted from sturdy pine wood for a solid feel. The ladder is built in, reversible and vertical, so there’s no need to factor in extra room for an angled ladder. Keep in mind that younger children on less steady feet might benefit more from a bunk bed with sturdy stairs. It can also convert into two single twin beds if the kids tire of the bunks or wind up in separate rooms one day. The top bunk is rated up to 400 pounds. Choose from natural, white, espresso and gray finishes.
At their core, bunk beds are made to be whimsical—and this bestselling Pottery Barn bunk is all about it. A treehouse design has the top bunk inside a fun house frame, complete with five windows and a front ladder. The whole thing is crafted from solid pine and engineered wood for a sturdy feel. The finishes—choose from navy, white or gray—are lacquered for durability, so you don’t have to stress about chips. High guardrails make this bed good for kids of all ages while the lower bottom bunk is especially well-suited to younger ones. The top bunk can support up to 250 pounds. It’s also made in a Fair Trade certified factory and is Greenguard Gold certified to have your children breathe in healthier air. We suspect that the biggest issue you’ll have with this bunk is figuring out who gets to sleep in the treehouse at the top.
This DHP bunk is under $350, making it much more affordable than a lot of the competition. (The twin-over-twin version is $263.) It’s also made of metal, for a modern look that’s also sturdy enough to stand up to years of use. The bunk has a twin over full bottom, allowing for children of different sizes to stretch out. Two integrated side ladders save on space while allowing easy access to the top. My sons have this bunk, and it’s remained intact, solid and chip-free, despite all that they’ve dished out over the past two years. The top bunk’s weight capacity is 200 pounds while the bottom full bed can hold 450 pounds, meaning it might also work as an in-a-pinch guest bed. Choose from a range of frame colors, including pink, white, black and silver.
Harriet Bee’s Cvyatko bunk bed has everything you want in a bunk minus the extras you can live without. It features a manufactured and solid wood frame for a sturdy feel you can feel good about. The bunk is also designed to not take up too much floor space—meaning, there’s no angled ladder popping out or elaborate headboards. Parents of younger kids will like this bed’s lower height and solid guardrail. You can also set this up as a traditional bunk bed or split it into two separate beds if your kids eventually decide they’re over the bunk situation. Choose from five color options and two sizes—twin-over-twin or full-over-full. Keep in mind that the twin top bunk is rated for up to 165 pounds, a lower weight max than other options on our list.
One of the biggest concerns with using bunk beds for toddlers is the risk of falls. This Max & Lily bunk has several precautions in place to minimize that including an actual staircase with guardrail, a lower bunk that sits on the floor and 14-inch guardrails. The bunk bed is made from sturdy pine wood and has a 400-pound weight capacity, so adults can lie down for story time. The bunk is just 50 inches high, making it great for rooms with low ceilings. There’s versatility with the staircase, too: You can install it on the left or right. And, while the bed’s toddler-friendly staircase design takes up extra room, it’s worth noting that there’s space inside that doubles as a bookshelf.
This triple bunk has racked up the positive ratings on Wayfair. Reviewers praise its sturdiness (a worry with triple bunks) and rave about the modern design. By opting to make one of the bunks a loft, rather than stacking all three in a vertical line, the manufacturers have given parents the option of two top bunks (often a child’s preferred choice) and opened up space beneath that third bunk for a desk or reading nook with bean bag chair. It’s made with both real and manufactured wood and comes in several neutral shades. It’s the ultimate space saver for families with multiples—and an affordable pick, too.
Whether you have kids of varying ages and sizes sharing a room, or you have one child who likes spread out, the Belden twin-over-full bunk is a great option. It’s made of a mix of sturdy popular and pine wood, keeping this bunk securely in place. The bunk also features built-in drawers with dove-tail corners for extra storage that will last. An actual staircase (vs. ladder) makes it easier for smaller family members to get up and down from the top bunk safely. Worth noting: The guardrail is an impressive 22 inches high, giving you plenty of coverage. The bunk is Greenguard Gold certified, contributing to cleaner air in your child’s room. There’s a 250-pound weight limit on both bunks. Enjoy neutral shades of white, a weathered seadrift wood, gray and navy.
Bunk beds are inherently fun, but this Isabelle & Max option kicks things up a notch with plenty of features to keep kids occupied—and maybe even looking forward to bedtime. A built-in slide allows for a fun way to get out of bed in the morning (or to just blow off some steam before bed). A cotton play curtain creates a house facade that can be fastened with a hook and loop or removed. The angled ladder has rounded edges for comfort and is reversible. A nice perk: The bottom bed sits just 2 inches off the floor, making it a good space for younger sleepers. The entire bed has a low profile, so you don’t need to stress about little ones climbing too high. Yet, each bunk is rated to hold 400 pounds safely.
To choose the best bunk beds, we looked at the most popular bunk beds on the market and spoke to a pediatrician about safety concerns. We then narrowed down the field based on parent reviews, safety features, additional options and value. At Forbes, we’ve also tested and researched dozens of the best mattresses and beds, so we know the sleep space well. Our parenting coverage includes other baby and kids’ furniture, including the best cribs, bassinets, crib mattresses, toddler beds and even bean bag chairs.
In general, bunk beds are considered safe for kids, Ganjian says. However, he says, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a risk of falling from the top bunk—especially with younger children.
Falls and injuries from bunk beds are not uncommon in kids. Our parenting editor’s own daughter took a tumble off her ladder in the middle of the night and fractured her arm in first grade. One study found that 23,000 children ages 9 and under were injured on bunk beds from 2001 to 2004 (nearly 15,000 of those were under the age of 6).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you do not let children under the age of 6 sleep in the top bunk. While younger children can technically sleep in the bottom bunk, you’ll want to make sure they’re able to stay put and won’t wander up to the top (or onto the ladder) when you’re not there to supervise. So, it’s really best to limit their use to kids ages 6 and up.
There are a few different things you can do. “Make sure everything fits correctly,” Ganjian says. Meaning, the mattress should go all the way to the side of the bed frame and not leave any spaces or gaps where children can get caught or trapped.
You’ll also want to make sure your top mattress doesn’t raise the sleep surface so high that the guard rail won’t work. Bunk beds typically come with guidelines on how thick the top mattress should be in order to maintain the integrity of the guardrail.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates bunk beds, requiring guardrails and specifying certain design standards to reduce entrapment and falls, as well as setting standards on sharp edges, surface coatings, phthalates and lead. It also states that “the tops of the guardrails must be no less than 5 inches above the top of the mattress,” to prevent kids from rolling off the top bunk.
Having a night light in the room is also a good idea, Ganjian says, to help guide children who get up in the night.
“I recommend placing the bunk in the corner of the room,” he says. “That way, at least two sides of the bunk are taken care of, safety-wise.”
Looking for a bunk bed with an easy-to-climb ladder or even stairs might also help to reduce stumbles.
There is no hard and fast rule on how far the top bunk should be from the ceiling. But, in general, you’ll want to leave enough space for a child to sit up in bed. That means manufacturers typically recommend leaving at least 36 inches (or 3 feet) of clearance between the mattress and ceiling.
Each bunk bed is different. Manufacturers will list weight maximums for each bunk. Sometimes the top bunk and lower bunk weight limitations are the same, sometimes they vary significantly. Both are important safety notices, and it’s important to read the labels to ensure each bed can hold your child (0r a caregiver and a child) safely. Many bunks can hold between 400 to 500 pounds with the top bunk typically rated at around 200 or 250 pounds.
There are several types of bunk beds. Standard bunks usually have either a twin over twin or full over full mattress, although some will have a twin mattress on top and a full mattress on the bottom. Triple bunks allow for three mattresses. There are also loft beds with a solo raised bunk that allows for space underneath the bed to place a desk or other items.
Not necessarily—it’s usually a matter of personal preference. Many bunks are wood, but metal bunks are also durable and tend to cost less. Often a metal bunk can be wiped down for easy cleanup, and it’s less likely to chip, but other parents will prefer the construction and possibly the look of wood in a child’s bedroom.
There’s a wide range. Bunks can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. However, you don’t necessarily need to pay more for a quality bed. The bunk beds in this article range from around $330 to $3400. They are, generally, under $1000 unless there are significant material differences or special features, such as a built-in staircase.
Zack O'Malley Greenburg is senior editor of media & entertainment at Forbes and author of four books, including A-List Angels: How a Band of Actors, Artists and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley and the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. Zack's work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, McSweeney's and the Library of Congress. In over a decade at Forbes, he has investigated topics from Wu-Tang Clan's secret album in Morocco to the return of tourism in post-conflict Sierra Leone to the earning power of Hip-Hop's Cash Kings, writing cover stories on subjects ranging from Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher to Katy Perry. A former child actor, Zack played the title role in the film Lorenzo's Oil (1992) and arrived at Forbes in 2007 after graduating from Yale with an American Studies degree. For more, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and via www.zogreenburg.com. Got a tip on a music, media & entertainment story? Send it over via SecureDrop. Instructions here: www.forbes.com/tips
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